Monday, March 30, 2009

«Motivational Monday: Christian Dark Ages»

Of course, there's also the distinct possibility we could have destroyed ourselves in a technological war by now as well.

Christianity / Just think, we could have been exploring the galaxy by now.


  1. We might have destroyed life by now too.

  2. BTW, as with the flat earth theory, the dark ages never happened. They were dreamed up by some bitter 19th century atheist academics.

  3. Looney: What exactly do you mean when you say the dark ages are a myth? Are you saying that people could question Aristotle's teachings without fear of religious reprisals?

  4. Nathaniel, mastery of science always shows up in technology. During the Roman era, most of Europe was inhabited by savages running through the forest (see Germanica by Tacitus). During the middle ages, technological improvements related to agriculture caused Europe to be settled and farmed, with a great increase in production. The end result was the great cathedrals where smaller cities of Europe were making structures bigger than the prosperous cities of the classical era.

    In terms of military power, a smaller medieval army would probably have little trouble to defeat a Roman legion, thanks to improved metal working. These smaller, but technologically superior armies turned back the tide of the poorly equipped Muslim hoards.

    That is why I say that the "Dark Ages" were a 19th century myth.

    "Are you saying that people could question Aristotle's teachings without fear of religious reprisals?"

    Aristotle was the most famous pagan teacher of the classical era. Augustine made systematic fun of classical era pagan teaching in The City Of God at the beginning of the middle ages. Questioning Aristotle didn't become politically incorrect until the Renaissance era and got a bit crazy during the later Counter Reformation era in limited parts of Europe. The mythical "Dark Ages" ended with the beginning of the Renaissance era, which was many centuries before the fusses over Aristotle.

  5. @ Looney: That's almost like saying the Holocaust never happened. True, scholars don't like to call it "Dark Ages" anymore, and instead call it "Middle Ages". But no matter what you call it, it was still a period of technological stagnation/decline and religious domination.

    Anyway, I don't think we're capable of destroying all life. No matter if we plunge this planet into a nuclear winter and irradiate the surface for 1,000 years... There will still be things that survive. There are species that are unaffected by radiation.

  6. OK, I did some research... There were dark ages, but not quite when I thought, and it wasn't the church's fault.

    There was a loss of knowledge following the decline of Rome, and the dark ages lasted about 250-1000 AD. In the 1100s, people started collecting and translating Greek, Roman and Arabic works, which started a renaissance that lasted until the plague hit. The plague stalled progress until the 1500s, except in art, where there were huge breakthroughs during the plague years.

    It looks like the dark ages were really more the fault of the general collapse of civilization than the church, which may even have helped by acting as a stabilizing force.

  7. Nathaniel, that sounds much better. I have a book shelf full of classical texts. They are all translated from Greek or Latin, but I have yet to run across an Arabic derived one in my collecting. Do you know which ones were translated from Arabic?

  8. This is the page I was reading. It mentions Gerard of Cremona and Gundissalinus as people who translated arabic works. Their wikipedia articles list authors they translated from Arabic—interestingly, this includes Ptolemy. I guess they didn't have any copies left in the original Latin.

  9. Er, make that "...the original Greek."

    Marf: Have you considered upgrading comments to IntenseDebate Comments? It's got several nice features, including not sending you off to that ugly "post a comment" page, and comment editing.

  10. @ Nathaniel: Yeah, I don't like that "post a comment" page either. I did have in-line comments for a brief time, however it didn't work with mobile browsers.

    I'll look into that IntenseDebate deal. It does work with Blogger and not just Wordpress, right?

    I tell you... Sometimes I wish I would have gone with Wordpress instead of Blogger.

  11. @ Nathaniel: There's currently no way to import all my existing comments to IntenseDebate. So I'm not going to switch to it right now.

  12. Nathaniel, thanks for that. I know from other readings that Ptolemy's work was a manual for astrology, while "mathematician" had been considered a shorthand for astrologer (per Augustine). Fortune telling involved a significant amount of computing.

  13. Recognizing that this discussion took place a long time ago, i would still like to add my thought, having found myself upon it.

    Looney, you questioned Nathaniel about works concerning mathematics translated from arabic and other eastern language. I'd like to point you in the direction of first Brahmagupta of India (his work, Brahmaphutasiddhanta), who details many algebraic principles such as the quadratic, as well as work with the 0 quantity in ratio, while living in the 7th century.

    Second on to the Persian Muslim, MuḼammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizm of the 8th and 9th century Abbasids, who revisioned the works of Ptolemy, the Indian mentioned above, and introduced the western world to decimal representative of numerals. His work was translated to Latin in the 12th century, and details many linear and quadratic methods in great depth of understanding.
    Directly from 'Al-Khwarizm' comes your word 'Algorithm' through his Latin name 'Algoritmi', as does your word 'algebra' come from his word 'al-jabr' which he meant to 'restore' or 'balance'

    Let the significance be known of the wealth of knowledge built upon the Greek and earlier foundations by the eastern nations, for without them the light of the classical period would have been forever lost to the people of the west.

    I hope that you understand my writing, it is not in my native language.

  14. @ Anonymous (#13): Let me be the first to tell you that your writing is better than most people who's only language is English.

  15. @Anonymous(#13), as Marf said, you write better than most Americans!

    "Let the significance be known of the wealth of knowledge built upon the Greek and earlier foundations by the eastern nations, for without them the light of the classical period would have been forever lost to the people of the west."

    This is the standard textbook version. Having studied a large number of classical works now, it seems that nearly all came directly from Greek without the intermediary of Arabic and were found in Western European libraries. The picture was much more complex, because original Greek works by people like Aristotle were extent in Western, Latin Europe, while it was also translated to Latin from Arabic. This makes the picture much more complex.

    Eastern, Greek Europe also was quite familiar with classical Greek literature and Western monks frequently traveled to the East to improve their language and scholarship. This civilization was largely blotted out in 1450 by the Turks, so it doesn't get any notice in the history text books.

  16. imagine nuclear bombs existing 100 years ago...

  17. Interestingly, Christianity holds us back once more. Just like the Inquisition. Even more interestingly, see how big the gap is.


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